Santa’s satellite workshop in Walls, Mississippi was bustling with activity this year. Before the Thanksgiving turkeys had come out of the oven, SHSM “elves” (disguised as social service ministers) were busy making their lists and checking them twice. Increasing for the third year in a row, the angel count for 2020 was 566 children and 239 seniors.
Huge bags and boxes filled with clothing, toys and bicycles began arriving at our doors the first of December. Our community of donors, both near and far, rallied to make these gifts for families in need possible, bringing hope to those struggling financially this Christmas season.
The pandemic has made the recruitment of volunteers difficult, at best. But there have been a number of long-term volunteers who made a significant contribution to our holiday programs. These generous individuals came in every day like clockwork, then stayed until all of the sorting, wrapping, bagging and tagging was accomplished.
Distribution for all of the many presents collected began immediately. Operating like the local FedEx hub, gifts were brought to Walls, sorted by family, checked, then sent back out to the correct social service location for distribution and pickup.
Grateful parents flooded our offices, some with tears in their eyes. “You have no idea how much this helps,” said Nicole.
“I am raising my grandchildren, and only get social security. There is no way I could do this for them,” said Evelyn.
Lakeisha has three children. Working in housekeeping at a local hotel, she is barely able to make ends meet. She relies on SHSM for assistance on food bills to balance the family’s budget. “I am so grateful for what you do for me and my children,” she said. “Thank you so much!”
Taking care to remember those who might otherwise be forgotten is at the heart of our Christmas operations. Six low-income housing communities across our service area, with a total of 239 residents, were included in our senior gift box distribution this year.
Though not specific for the client, the boxes were filled to the brim with all types of goodies, such as tissues, hard candy, soup, cookies, lotions, socks, gloves, T-shirts, cards and calendars, religious items, Christmas ornaments, blankets, and much more.
We were also blessed to have several members of the Knights of Columbus assist us with deliveries to the low-income seniors in one community. One Knight came dressed as Santa, causing quite the stir. He not only dressed the part, he grabbed his belly and exclaimed, “Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas!” as boxes of goodies were handed out. Residents, many of whom were stationed by their entry doors, were giddy with excitement upon catching a glimpse of the jolly old elf. They were visibly touched by the experience and quite a few eagerly asked to get their photos taken with good ole’ St. Nick proof that one is never too old to believe. If only for a few moments, the complex was transformed with a cheerful Christmas spirit.
All of this was made possible by those who give generously of their resources to make Christmas better for others. There is no way to measure the impact of their simple acts of kindness, but from what we witnessed it was profound. The joy delivered to these residents was heart-warming to see. We can all share in the joy!